BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s fixation on the idea that other European countries want its money has clouded its view on the need for closer euro zone integration, and this stance must change, said a top adviser to French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, the economist who oversaw the construction of Macron’s election programme, told German weekly Die Zeit that a victory for the centrist candidate over his far-right rival Marine Le Pen on Sunday would be a “strong signal for more Europe”.
And he made clear that Macron, if he wins, would expect Germany to engage with Paris on reform of the euro zone, saying the currency bloc needed its own budget, both to boost investment and to bolster its ability to react to crises.
“The EU cannot remain as it is,” Pisani-Ferry was quoted as saying. “After the elections in Germany in September, at the latest, we will have to look very closely at what has gone wrong and what we can do better.”
“We have understood that Germany does not want to be and cannot be the paymaster for Europe. The problem however, is that Germany’s obsession with the idea that it is all about money has distorted its view of what we need to change in Europe so that the currency union works,” he added.
In addition to introducing a euro zone budget, Macron supports the idea of a finance minister for the bloc, converting the ESM bailout fund into a full-fledged monetary fund similar to the IMF, and pressing ahead with the completion of the bloc’s banking union.
He has said his first priority as president would be to reform the French economy. This, he says, would help restore trust with Germany and make it easier for the euro zone’s two biggest countries, long seen as the motor of European integration, to press ahead with reforms of the bloc.
Officials in the German government are openly backing Macron in the runoff with Le Pen, who is threatening to pull France out of the EU and euro.But hardliners around Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble are leery about any steps to pool financial resources in Europe and believe structural reforms in France and other countries are the key to strengthening the euro zone.
Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan